Posts Tagged ‘bankruptcy’

If I hadn’t read Terry Pratchett’s book Going Postal way back when it was first published in 2005 I would have sworn the DVD I watched tonight was satirizing the actions of Big Business over the last few years. The DVD was also called Going Postal, which might have counted as copyright infringement had it not been based on Mr. Pratchett’s fine book, introduced by Mr. Pratchett himself, and–a special treat for all us groupies–graced with a lovely little cameo appearance by the author.

I’ve been reading the Disc World books since The Boy was The Baby, and I was pushing him down the street in Eagle Point, Oregon, to borrow Pratchett books from the tiny library. The first one I read was Hogfather, and from the moment Mr. Teatime (pronounced Tay-a-tim-ay) lisps his first sinister lines I was hooked.

By the time Going Postal came out I had graduated to buying the Pratchett books, in hard cover, because I knew then, and I know now, that these are books I will keep until I die, and then I want them buried with me. So–long-time fan of the books here, but the movies are a comparatively new guilty pleasure.

Chaulk it up to us not having cable until we moved to Milton-Freewater, but somehow the fact that Mr. Pratchett’s books were migrating to the small screen had escaped me. When I discovered Hogfather for sale on Amazon (and surely that was Kismet at work, that my first Pratchett DVD would also have been my first Pratchett book) I nearly swooned. And then I found The Color of Magic. And this afternoon the nice Fed Ex lady knocked on my door I answered it she placed the precious package in my hands–my very own DVD of Going Postal: The Movie.

When we popped it into the PS3 (and how cool is that, that we no longer have to have two machines in order to both play games and watch movies?) The Boy and I planned for a long, lazy evening in Ankh Morpork. And that’s exactly what we got. One of the things I love about the Pratchett movies is that they look exactly the way they should. Part of this might be that Pratchett is involved in the production. Part of this surely is that since some of the novels have been made into graphic novels the set designers and wardrobe people have resources from which to draw.

But this movie has Something More, and it gets it from the context in which it will inevitably be watched. As I said, I read the book back in 2005, and enjoyed it. But as I watched the movie tonight I was struck by the eerie parallels with our time. Mr. Pratchett is not only a damned fine writer–he is apparently a prophet as well.

I won’t spoil the movie for you because you truly need to get it and watch it for yourself, but I will say that in writing this book Mr. Pratchett juggles things like bankrupt post offices, robber barons who operate within the letter of the law while systematically robbing the people they profess to serve, the role of marketing in shaping public opinion, and a multitude of other issues that apparently plague Ankh-Morpork as well as us–and he never once drops the ball.

I know I just make this sound like a “thinky” movie, the kind of thing you want to be seen renting, but fails to grip once you’ve gotten your bathrobe on and the popcorn popped, but Pratchett’s genius lies in being able to take an idea that seems bizarre on the face of it and make it seem not only logical but inevitable–and to do in in the midst of a teeming, roiling, bawdy city that’s like no city anywhere on earth–or The Disc, for that matter.

I love Going Postal for the same reason that I love Terry Pratchett’s books–because first of all they’re such fun (how can you not like a book that contains a mystery meat pie man named “Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler,” and a bum named “Foul Ol’ Ron,” and a thriving community of dwarves–dwarf women are also bearded, and gender is a carefully guarded secret  until Just The Right Moment). Now take all those characters, place them into a situation that seems all too familiar, add a little magic, a terrifyingly pragmatic ruler (and a former Assassin, from the Assassin’s Guild), a policewoman who is a werewolf,  a magical college (Unseen University) whose stated function is to keep people from doing magic, a–I could go on–shake them until they’re all thoroughly irritated, and then pour them out onto a plate that rests on the back of four elephants who are in turn standing on the back of a giant turtle who is swimming through space, and you have a simulacrum of the world in which Pratchett’s books live and move. And in which the movies are apparently shot.

So–get the books. Get them all. Get all the movies, too. Order a case of M&M’s and another of barbecue potato chips. Stock up on the beverage of your choice. Then close the curtains, bar the door, call in sick for a month and just read, read, read. Then watch movies. And when you emerge, pale, shaky, pink-eyed, and myopic, you will only regret that, for the moment, there are no more Pratchett books to buy. But take heart–Terry Pratchett appears hale and hearty, and doesn’t look to be running out of material any time soon. There will be more.

Now go. Buy. Watch. Be happy.

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Well, not exactly. Things are a bit narrow here, but not really absolutely tight. It’s been a hard year and we’re still digging ourselves out, but for the first time in a long time I find myself wanting to make Christmas–and having the energy to do it.

In the past I’ve dealt with Christmas by throwing money at it. This year there’s not much money to throw if I plan to pay the mortgage. It’s nice to think that somebody at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage might be visited by three ghosts and decide to forgive my loan, but it hasn’t happened so far. Like the Cratchits, we will be doing Christmas on the proverbial fifteen shillings.

In the past situations like this have sparked the, “Bad Mommy! Bad Mommy!” inner diatribe, the one in which I have failed as a parent and as a human being because I find myself short of funds at Christmas. This year, though, it’s different.

For one thing, the last few hard years have sent me to financial places I never dreamed I would go. When I started this journey bankruptcy seemed like a soul smear. But it’s happened, and we have all survived, and like Gwion Bach, who in surviving Ceridwen’s murderous rage becomes more than he ever dreamed possible, we have been transformed.

For one thing, we have become a family in a way we weren’t before. There has always been deep love and laughter, but surviving the times has forced us to a deeper level of honesty. When The Boy asks for things these days he first asks about what checks have come in, and what bills are due. And I no longer have the luxury of protecting him from the reality of our finances. We have learned that the things we took for granted before–money for the mortgage, utilities, and school lunches–need to be considered before we buy treats.

I have learned that I can be honest without being frightening. I’ve learned how to say, “Let’s make a list. Right now I need to save for the mortgage, but when we next get a big check let’s talk about this again.” And I’ve learned that there is no shame about acknowledging the fact that, for us, funds are not unlimited. I am not a bad mother if I can’t buy him everything that catches his eye.

Removing money from the equation has allowed us to really see the things that make our lives good. We are healthy. We are warm. We have a house that cleans up nice. We have food. We have learned to take pleasure in little things. I love frost on branches. The boy loves the narrow old bridges that lead out of town and onto the country roads that surround us. The House Leroy has found a happy substitute for cable in Netflix, which allows him to feed his passion for documentaries.

Most of all, we have friends. We have lots of friends. And we live in a town where “doing something” is as likely to be going over to somebody’s house, sitting in the kitchen, and talking as going out for an evening’s entertainment.

So this Christmas, while there will be presents, I’ve decided to plan for fewer of them, and more money for cookies and hot chocolate. We live in a town where electricity is cheap, so we have lights on the house–lots of lights. We have lots of Christmas decorations for inside. We have lots of Christmas shows on DVD and on Netflix. Our stove is working. This Christmas is going to be about people. I’m going to make hot chocolate for the people who come by to look at our house lights, and for The Boy’s friends. My goal will be to have someone over every day while he’s on vacation. I’ll bake a small batch of cookies every day. We’ll have the kids at Step-Ahead over to watch movies, decorate cookies, and play games. The house will look and smell like Christmas. And we’ll be surrounding ourselves with friends.

So if you find yourself in our town this holiday season, stop by. We’ll give you hot chocolate and cookies. The house will be lovely, inside and out. We can play games, or watch movies, or sit in the kitchen, eat chili, and talk. We’ll be spending time, rather than money this year. And in exchange we will get a Christmas we’ll love to remember.

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Susan Wittig Albert

NYT Bestselling Author


WRITER, memoir teacher, knitter, quilter, happy trail walker...

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